Greatest rapper alive: Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole?
via AP

Greatest rapper alive: Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole?

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J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are lyrical geniuses, and now the Rap Gods are reportedly working together on a highly-anticipated joint album. While collaborative friends, hip-hop heads have been debating who's the greatest rapper of the two for awhile now. Some fans say Kendrick's "DAMN" cements him as one of the greatest emcees of all time. But although J. Cole isn't pursuing fame, fans argue his gifts as a storyteller makes him the greatest rapper alive. Who is this generation's best lyrical emcee? 🎤


Kendrick and Cole have a mutual respect for each other as lyricists and emcees. So much so that they are reportedly working together on a collaborative album. Back in December, while promoting his new album "Do What Thou Wilt," Ab-Soul told the Breakfast Club the acclaimed rappers were working on the album together following much speculation. 

According to the Fader, Ab-Soul said: 

"I don’t really know too much about it. I just hope they use my verse.” When Charlemagne asked again if there was a Kendrick/Cole album, Ab-Soul confirmed, saying “There is a Kendrick/Cole album. They got it. They got something in the works. They been working on that motherfucker for awhile.”

But Kendrick and Cole's respect for each other might stem from how much they have in common. Both are socially-conscious rappers; both are really great lyricists; both were inspired by Rap Gods like Tupac; and both have inspired and connected with younger generations by spitting rhymes about the Black experience and social issues. While this is a tough call—this debate must be settled. Who will go down in history as this generation's greatest emcee? 

Read more of the perspectives, decide and vote!

Kendrick's popularity and acclaim is growing with every album. The master lyricist just released his fourth studio album, "DAMN," to critical acclaim and commercial success—resulting in his highest first week sales ever. But many fans still call his previous album, "To Pimp a Butterfly," his magnum opus. Having two albums competing for the title as your greatest isn't a bad problem to have. "To Pimp a Butterfly" took home a few Grammys, but not Album of the Year in 2016. A hard, but expected lost. The Grammys still struggle to properly honor hip-hop/rap music in the major, non-genre categories.

Mic's  Andrew Leung wrote:

If it were simply up to the critics, Lamar's magnum opus, 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' would sweep Monday's ceremony, including a trophy for album of the year – one of the "Big Four" categories, and arguably the most prestigious since it rewards a complete work, as opposed to a lone song or perceived potential. 

While music critics have called "To Pimp a Butterfly" Kendrick at his best, there's no doubt he's one of the greatest ever with "DAMN." 

Complex's John Kennedy writes: 

Kendrick Lamar knew something the rest of us didn’t when he released 'The Heart Part 4' in March. “My spot is solidified if you ask me,” he raps, with unshakeable confidence behind his words. The loosie didn’t mark the first time the Compton lyricist—who hasn’t even reached his 30th birthday—has called himself the greatest rapper alive...

KL's rhymes can be smooth, but often times, he delivers an aggressive flow. Kendrick isn't just a storyteller, his voice and lyrics are his rally cry and he motivates his audience to be mindful of and take action on what's happening in the world around them. Kendrick's unapologetic, militant and revolutionary lyrics translate into anthems. He paints a picture of the harsh realities Black people face in America, where the liberation struggle continues. 

Though, he's been blasted—like many rappers—about the misogynoir in his lyrics. Recent critiques have only brought more visibility to the complexity of being a Black feminist and hip-hop head (and those who are both and still believe KL is the greatest.) Still, Kendrick musically highlights the Black community's resilience in the face of struggle, but like he raps, "we gon' be alright!"

Watch this lyrical video of Kendrick's "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" below. Because the rapper's emotive style is being recognized as the dopest in the game.

J. Cole has been killing the game for quite some time, but he proved he owned it with "2014 Forest Hills Drive." The album went double platinum without any features. "2014 Forest Hills Drive," like most of Cole's music, takes you on a personal journey. His music is so relatable—often times tackling social issues from his perspective and through the point-of-view of others. Cole delivers a smooth flow that clearly plays out a narrative, to the point that you can visualize it (or his rhymes simply take you there). 

He doesn't necessarily call himself the greatest. But how can he not? Then again, for Cole, it's not about winning a title or even living in the spotlight. He's made a conscious effort not to focus on fame. He's been focused on family; his art is secondary. He continues to use his personal experiences and the Black experience as the groundwork for his music. Heck, Cole won't even make any future diss tracks because he feels rap beefs tear Black people down. To many, he holds the title of greatest rapper alive.

The New York Times' Jon Caramanica writes:

And on '4 Your Eyez Only,' he digs in to deeply emotional narratives, and continues his penchant for tackling left-field subject matter, like “Foldin Clothes,” about the thrills of domesticity. “It’s a celebration of growing up,” he said. “I chose this path, and damn it feels good,” comparing its energy to how other rappers might celebrate a new Bentley.
It also transformed him from a student of the great storytelling rappers to a teacher. That’s clearest on “False Prophets,” released separately just before the album (it wasn’t included because it disrupted the narrative), which found Mr. Cole diagnosing the neuroses of his peers and heroes without naming them, though the internet filled in the blanks quickly.

Check out the lyrical video of Cole's "Lost Ones" below. This is why many call him the greatest out there. He layers so many real-life perspectives in his music. 

Check out some significant lyrics from one of Kendrick's most signature hits, "Alright" This anthem isn't just a banger, but it truly gives Black folks hope about the struggle. 

Wouldn't you know
We been hurt, been down beforeNigga, when our pride was lowLookin' at the world like, "Where do we go?"Nigga, and we hate po-poWanna kill us dead in the street fo sho'Nigga, I'm at the preacher's doorMy knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blowBut we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Huh? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright
Uh, and when I wake up
I recognize you're looking at me for the pay cut
But homicide be looking at you from the face down
What MAC-11 even boom with the bass down?
Schemin', and let me tell you 'bout my life
Painkillers only put me in the twilight
Where pretty pussy and Benjamin is the highlight

Watch the music video to "Alright" below. This is exactly why he's called the best rapper of this generation.

#TeamKendrick because who else can evoke such an aggressive flow and turn socially-conscious songs into hits?! Only you, Kendrick!

Below are notable lyrics from Cole's Grammy-nominated hit "Apparently," the lead single from "2014 Forest Hills Drive." On the album, he reflects on his life and the decisions he made. It's considered by many to be his magnum opus.

This is my canvas
I'ma paint it how I want it baby, oh I
This is my canvas
I'ma paint it, paint it, paint it, how I want it nigga
Fuck you cause there, there is no right or wrong, only a song
I like to write alone, be in my zone
Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home
But the only thing like home I've ever known
Until they snatched it from my mama
And foreclosed her on the loan
I'm so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone
I was up in New York City chasing panties, getting dome
Had no clue what you was going through
How could you be so strong?
And how could I be so selfish, I know I can be so selfish
I could tell by how I treat you with my girl
Damn she so selfless
But she put up with my ways
Because she loves me like you do
And though it don't always show I love her just like I love you
And I need to treat you better
Wish you could live forever
So we could spend more time together
(I love you mama)

Watch the music video below. And we bet you'll agree he's the greatest.

#TeamJCole because being one of the greatest storytellers of all-time is rooted in the relatability of his experiences.

Kendrick's flow is not only sick, but the depth of his rhymes pushes listeners to think.

And his latest album has fans and music critics like "DAMN... the greatest."


Did we mention how many features Cole had on his magnum opus, "2014 Forrest Hills Drive"? He had NONE because he's the greatest on his own. 


And "4 Your Eyez Only" is all him too.


Hip-hop heads argue you should open your mind while listening to both—because they are the illest rappers out right now!

Listen to Kendrick's magnum opus, "To Pimp A Butterfly," below. 

Listen to Cole's best-selling album, "2014 Forest Hills Drive," below.

Also, listen to Kendrick's latest acclaimed effort, "DAMN," below. 

Take a listen to Cole's current hit album, "4 Your Eyez Only," below.


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